Thursday, October 08, 2015

Back in Earl's Court

On most visits to London, we find ourselves in Earl's Court, because it is serviced by both the Piccadilly and District lines of the London Tube. It is the closest central (Zone 1) London Underground stop to Heathrow airport, since once you board the train, it takes less than 30 minutes to get there. If you're going to Kings Cross you can add another 20 minutes to your commute.

The fact that it has an easily accessed elevator, for transporting heavy luggage to street level, is a big plus. This vibrant neighborhood is diverse and colorful with good value hotels and inexpensive dining options. Earl's Court Road is also filled with shops that I find very appealing when it comes to bringing home gifts for family.

My two favorite places are Boot's the chain chemist shops that have nice prices on cosmetics, and Marks & Spencer's MS Simply Food. In late October, Boot's starts stocking  gift boxes of assorted colors of nail polish, or eye shadows, sometimes lipsticks and assorted scents of bath gel, and body lotions.

The food hall has fresh produce and various take out foods like sandwiches and salads, perfect for impromptu picnics, but what I love most are the tins of cookies, or should I say "biscuits", that travel well. I have never tasted better shortbread and the tins are gifts in themselves.

These Belgian chocolate biscuits make a great gift for friends and were very easy to pack. I do have to wonder why my memory of their taste is so vivid; perhaps these never even made it to a friend.

This flavor combination  was what piqued my interest to try more M&S Simply Food products. I'm happy every time I see that it's still in the product line. But on occasion, when it wasn't available, there was never any disappointment in having to select  something new. It seems that each time you walk into a Simply Food, you can rest assured that something new and interesting will be available in the biscuit department. Remember, there's always the shortbread.

If you couldn't possibly trust yourself to eat just one biscuit at a time, and that's more difficult than imaginable, you might be able to satisfy your sweet tooth with a four pack, rather than a ten pack of these tempting morsels. The volume will be the same, but you'll feel better about it.

If it hasn't  occurred  to you, that I'm fond of chocolates, maybe the photos here might give you a hint. M&S, Fair Trade Chocolates are some of the richest I've tasted. They're all intensely flavored, and feel like velvet.

One can never have too much chocolate, can you? So, let's take a look at the cereals. Both of these samples actually made it home with me and truthfully, they were a bit overkill in the chocolate department, but a child would love them. Who wouldn't like dessert for breakfast?

If you're thinking about adding to a gourmet pantry or would like a gift for an avid home chef, Simply food can help you find more than chocolate. Maldon salt is a flaked sea salt that would be well received by any cook

You can easily find it and its smoked flavor in London. M&S also sells other European salts like Falksalt, which produces a broad range of flavored salts. This was the first I'd ever seen of a chipotle flavored salt. Besides the smoke flavor this, offered a spicy flavor too.


Don't bring these back to a foodie friend unless you want a marriage proposal. You don't understand? Perhaps you have never had the opportunity to eat potatoes fried in goose fat. I assure you that these will pass U.S.Customs, unless there's another outbreak of Bird Flu, so buy them while ye may, and expect a very sincere thank you.

Our only excuse for buying this cheese and pickle sandwich had to be temporary insanity.  It was so very British it just begged to be tried. It's better to try one in a pub. We wanted to stay in, and made do.

The bottled water, however, was a nice and refreshing surprise, in more ways than one. The flavors were fresh. The elderflower water is on my list of items to pick up on our next trip.

When it comes to hotels, we have had good luck with The Mayflower on Trebivor Road, the Coronation along Nevern Square, The Ibis Styles Kensington Hotel on Hogarth Road and even the small Russel Hotel, again on Trebivor Road, although these days I prefer a hotel with a lift (elevator). Trying the Best Western Burn's Hotel this year has made me rethink my aversion to American Corporate properties in Europe. It seems they just affiliate with locally owned properties if their standards are met and maintained, in order to broaden their brand. The operation of the hotel is left to the original owners.

The trick to finding a decent sized room in London is to never accept a "standard" room, but to go for the next type at a slightly more expensive rate, such as a deluxe or executive room. When a hotel does not have an elevator I request a ground floor room or nothing higher than the 1st floor. Another good idea is to request the largest room available at that rate. The website has been a fine resource for me to use in finding the lowest prices possible, and the prices are better the later you book, however, the selection also decreases.

The Fuller's Pub, just across from the station is a good place to find a "Full English" breakfast if  your room doesn't come with breakfast. For a chain, which I try to avoid, Masala Zone has broadened my perspective. New Asia on Hogarth Road is decent for Indian, but Masala Zone on Earl's Court Road to the left of the station has won me over. Another restaurant that provides great value is The Little French Restaurant that has operated on Hogarth Road for the last 20 years. No one can match their £12.95, 3 course menu. Costa Coffee Shops has a location on Earl's Court Road and they are a nice alternative to Starbucks. Unfortunately, Earl's Court Road is now flooded with American fast food joints. Just remember that you didn't need a transatlantic flight  in order to buy or order chicken 
from KFC, or a sandwich at Subway, or a burger at McDonald's or Burger King.

TO BE CONTINUED...with photos added of the shops, hotels and restaurants.

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